the most civilized conveyance known to man

Phoenix has outgrown her bike. Already! At least we have another child who’s grown into it (Already!). I know just the upgraydd I want to acquire for my girl: an uber-lightweight women’s-size Trek with delicious Shimano shifters – immediately available, a few blocks away, in her favorite color even. It should fit her a long while unless she grows taller than I. Heck, this might happen – at only nine years old she’s an inch shy of my shoulder height. The bike isn’t inexpensive (for us), but our local shop accepts layaway (this is how I bought my own cargo bike) and I have a great rapport with the owner.

Now, the kids have been saving up their restaurant money and could afford about 80% of this bike; Nels has already offered to use the funds for that purpose (seriously? How sweet is he?). But I’d like to get her the bike as a gift, a surprise, and from the family fund. To assist in that end I’ve spent $20 on some business cards to distribute locally (the extent of my advertising efforts for Homesewn), and I’m hoping I can generate a little there, scrump from the grocery fund, etc. I’ve also sent one finished item out to a client (who hopefully will find it a good fit) and I’m putting together a few pieces that might find a home, and earn me some bike-funds. One of the best things about what I sew is: these days I won’t sew something I don’t love so it’s never a waste of my time.

I’m thinking about bikes none-too-early, as the weather has drastically improved and as much as I love to walk, we’re taking a few trips on wheels. I am hauling about thirty pounds more of kids on the Xtracycle than I was this time last year, that is when they elect to ride with me (usually they ride their own). They also regularly head off on their own adventures: today coming home at almost-dusk, stand-pedaling on their bikes with dirty shoes and trousers, shouting laughter, and sporting flushed cheeks. Perfect. Ralph and I have just finished a simple dinner (homemade frijoles refritos wrapped with sharp cheddar in soft tortillas and lightly fried; rice, and a carrot slaw) so we take a walk with our daughter through the wild areas sandwiched between the train tracks and the industrial area – shake mills and Latino body shops. Phoenix serves as a great tour guide, casually showing us her “enemy’s” tree house before leading us to her own: way back through blackberry-bush guarded trails, a quite-large platform made with local lumberyard scraps (by who, we do not know). This latter construction I eye with a kind of horrified respect as it seems about twenty feet off the ground and has no railings or anything. “Have you climbed up in that?” I ask my daughter. “Oh yes, many times. We’ve had four of us up there.” I feel an unspecified but exquisite thrill. What an adventure my children live!

Passing back through one of the many loamy and verdant trails we spy a very fresh half-pack of cigarettes, spilled out on the earth and a few of them broken, so recently that even in our damp environs the paper is still pristine-white. This halts my daughter in her tracks. “Ooh – evidence,” she says, and leans down. “But I don’t know of what, yet.”

We pick through the trails and over crushed bleach bottles and Miller High Life cans and deer sign and colonies of horsetail fern. Phoenix holds our hands all the way home, to a house that smells warm with homecooked food and evidences many sleeping cats.

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